2018: A Year In Food
In 2018, my gym coach assigned me to keep a food blog so he could track my meals. Through developing healthy eating habits to satisfy all of my nutritional needs and a rigorous exercise programme, I lost the 21 kg between January-August 2018 I'd gained on anti-depressants.
I wanted it to be somewhere more private rather than being shoved down people's throats (literally) through Instagram/WhatsApp. Hence I've posted my culinary creations here.
Being vegetarian and/or vegan always presents a challenge in terms of hitting the protein target so this was particularly the most interesting challenge for me.
I made a conscious decision to stop food blogging in 2019 (due to time restraints), but it's useful to have a year's diet documented as a reference and a source of inspiration!
I have seen both Nikki Iles and Stan Sulzmann on separate occasions in the past, and I remember being completely blown away. Tonight, they were both dazzling as ever, featuring with the Guildhall Jazz Band. The ensemble was a traditional big band format, with the addition of auxiliary woodwinds, tuba and lead guitar - adding a contemporary touch to a traditional medium. In terms of the ensemble interaction, I particularly enjoyed the interplay between different voices, sections and timbres; with dovetailing, intertwining layers of harmony that creep seductively over one another.
Nikki Iles played piano some improvisations that really explored the space that she had created through her compositions. Each note teetered over the balance enough to be projected across the builds, swells and warm curtains of wind and brass, which were delivered with staggering control. Her passages, interwoven so intimately into the sequences, rippled and breathed with life, melody and exploratory movement through glittering clusters and sensual phrasing.
Stan Sulzmann played with vigour and inquisition. His improvisation subjugated an exciting, hot-blooded bed of riveting, whirlwind, tour-de-force big band writing. His soprano saxophone played around the pulse, and every subtle nuance and intention was voiced clearly, refined, and without overkill. Equally stunning in the small band setting, his melodious improvisation weaved together precision timing and a high degree of emotive sensitivity. He doesn’t need to move fast during this ballad, instead slipping effortlessly through lush oases of intervallic splendour.
A couple of the tunes were composed by Nikki Iles and arranged by Stan Sulzmann. I was astounded by the structural invention and the way that composer / arranger utilises the big band medium to such stimulating effect. The grandiose, brassy swells, punctuated by the crisp, percussive attacks add impact to the rich submersion of colour and flavour. Moreover, it is delightful to see two such internationally renowned artists working together with these young people, cultivating emerging talent and keeping the art alive. It is proof that the big band is not a dead art form. Overall, it was an enchantingly refreshing and inspiring insight into contemporary British big band writing, and a reminder that the UK does offer a very special heritage within this medium.
Sophie Hunger @ Jazz Cafe
Swiss singer-songwriter, Sophie Hunger, dubbed by The Guardian as a cross-between Beth Orton and Björk, wowed audiences at Jazz Café, showcasing, with her band, songs from her new album. The lineup featured Alberto Malo (percussion, vocals), Simon Gerber (bass, guitar, clarinet, vocals), Sara Oswald (‘cello, glockenspiel, vocals) and Alexi Ameris (piano, rhodes, hammmond, trumpet, flugal horn, vocals). And if that list of instruments doesn’t tantalise your taste buds (or should I say, earlobes), then wait until you hear how the instruments are used! The orchestrations display an impressive array of textures and timbres, inventively played out, whilst drawing on influences from progressive rock, folk and electronic music.
In my opinion, her music is less about subtle nuances; instead, the excitement and tension is generated more through the overall shapes and ideas that are employed, the timbres that are combined and the shifting displacements that are created. Her melodies are smooth and flowing, whilst riveted in movement, attitude and unpredictability. There is so much personality and temperament in her orchestration, with far-flung motifs and grooves being twisted and strung around wildly, in a whirlwind of spontaneous unpredictability and slick, cut-off culminations.
Sophie herself has a gorgeous, breathy tone of voice, delivered with a captivating stage presence, with soulful eyes that gaze up to the heavens, and draw you into her dark, primal world. At times, I can certainly hear the fragile, wavering Björkness in her voice, whereas at other times, I hear the ‘folktronic’ lilt of Beth Orton - slowed-down rock ‘n’ roll, syncopated by polyrhythmic jives. The musical emotion is teased out in her strong, projected vocals; drawn out through smouldering poutations, ecstatic moaning, sighing and playful exclamations. Her personality owns the stage, and her no-nonsense, to-the-point attitude is perfectly encapsulated in the vowels and consonants that are completed with definition and finesse - so much so, that you can almost taste her words. Sophie is as much a linguist as she is a poet, effortlessly interchanging between English, French and German; translating her thoughts through windows of time and space, and providing rare glimpses into her infinite spheres of destiny - orchestrated through languishing ‘cello passages and minimalist voids.
Structurally, her songs are surprisingly short and sweet, in contrast to so many other forms of jazz, where compositions and arrangements are developed and played out through extended improvisation. Here, the story is different. In a sense, her compositions do not need to be developed. Many of them finish on a shrill ‘cliff hanger’, leaving the listener suspended in a void and forever asking questions. These abrupt endings leave the listener to continue the song in their mind, inviting them to formulate their own endings. Their message is delivered succinctly, and, in some cases, there is nothing more that needs to be said. Her poetic shells are complete, compelling and not overdone.
The smooth delicacy of her voice is often juxtaposed against smashing, symphonic hits, while the rhythmic constructions, stops and supplantations are used to dramatic effect. The band respond intuitively to the subject matter of the lyrics, throwing in a complete stop as the vocalist sings ‘float like a feather’, or drowning the vocalist in a satisfying well of heartbreak and trauma. I was particularly impressed with the jazzy, edgy piano improvisation, which nailed rhythmic displacements into kaleidoscopic walls of shimmers, rattles and runs, converging with the percussion, in a limitless determination. The interweaving of trumpet and clarinet at the end of one of her compositions, over bare, bass-line ‘heartbeat’ served to drive the poignancy home.
Examples of Twelves + Bento Box @ Green Note, Camden
Examples of Twelves
This project, featuring a close gang of London’s young, up-and-coming creative knit, bring together dramatic, punchy and dissonant horns, with driving drum riffs. Threading squealing harmonics, violently twisting melodies and flagrant tones in explorations of free improvisation - seamlessly interchanging between ambience and angularity.
Bento Box is a thrilling new collaboration between F-IRE collective members Pete Wareham (saxophone), Seb Rochford (drums) and Ben Hazleton (bass), pushing the boundaries of improvisation over timeless jazz classics. Pete Wareham (saxophone) whips you into a frenzied stream-of-consciousness; his flickering ribbons of melody often wrinkling upwards into altissimo flourishes, before plunging into headfirst dives of wild, thrashing improvisation. He is not half-hearted with his playing; he drives brain and soul into every single note, tempering with the pulse, and alternating fiercely between intensity and disparity.
Ben Hazleton (bass) begins his improvisations by first establishing the lines or parameters upon which to map out and extend his repertory. His unloading is varied and dynamic, experimenting with different techniques such as strumming, chordal playing and pizzicato. He moves his fingers so meticulously across the board, underpinned with strength, and exploiting the instrument to its full merit, through a fine-tuned, strong-willed hand and personality. This structural ‘mapping out’ is extended through his interplay with Seb Rochford (drums), who brings the rhythmic segregation of the bass into relief. He possesses a super-speedy response, fluctuating his metre and groove-changes effortlessly, and with such ease, and yet laughing and joking all the way. Occasionally, he deliberately plays against the beat, conflicting with the saxophone and the bass, to heighten the tension. When the kit becomes the main feature, he is expertly good at unwielding a barrage of smattering improvisation, whilst overtly keeping a cool head.
Overall, the trio brought an engaging dynamic to the Green Note, inciting a terrific response from the audience, who whooped and cheered at every turn of phrase. The development of their individual musical ideas really pushes the boundaries of improvisation and drives you on a tour-de-force, right to the very core of these standard compositions, and transforming them at the heart.
This musical collaboration combines smooth, sultry vocals, with luscious harmonies and a hardened, funky rhythm section - what more do you need? The sweetened interplay between lead / backing vocals and piano are fleshed out in soulful, warm and catchy choruses and uplifting lyrics that speak of love, hope, freedom, revolution and triumph rising up over adversity.
There was a fluid continuum between audience and performers, inciting audience participation, empowering the beholder, encouraging the belief that everyone can reach a global, musical forum, where ideas can be exchanged freely, and dispersed factions are collected, reconciled and unified, and engendering coalescence and bonding between everyone in the club.
The rearrangement of ‘Valerie’ (The Zutons / Amy Winehouse) got everyone up dancing. The tempo was taken down a notch, allowing the fullness and finesse of electronic synthesizer combined with sophisticated, jazzy re-harmonisations and a new, alternative, bass backbeat. The vocalists’ crafty inflections coupled with their re-modelled lyrics, witty wordplay and verbose spontaneity, sealed a standing ovation, and an audience screaming and chanting for more. A satisfyingly enriching end to the evening!
Rory spent the first few years of his life in an ice cave, carving out his palace of wonder. He's a bit of a love doll, but he who melts the ice shall have their reward.